Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Session Ends And The Campaign Begins; Key Senate Contest Heats Up, Plus: A Fouratt Credibility Gap? Officer Numbers Disputed In Double-Dipping Debate, And: A Final Goodbye To An Ethics Commission  

Campaigning for the '16 legislative contests begins promptly at 12:01 p.m today when the solons end their 30 day session. All 112 seats--70 in the House and 42 in the Senate are up for election. It will be a handful that will determine whether the R's can pull off their long-odds bid to take control of the Senate as they did the House in 2014 for the first time in 60 years.

An important piece of the takeover puzzle is sprawling District 39 that includes parts of six counties, including Santa Fe, San Miguel and Lincoln to the south. Dem State Senator Phil Griego resigned the seat last year amid an ethics scandal and Gov. Martinez appointed Republican Ted Barela to the seat. Soon after, Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, also a former state senator, announced she would seek the June Dem nomination for the seat. Now we have a new player with some punch in the race. Mike Anaya, a former two term Santa Fe county commissioner, is going to duel it out with Stefanics for the Dem nod and the right to take on Barela in November.

Anaya hails from Galisteo and says he still works on the family ranch. He made a pitch for rural support in his announcement, clearly separating himself from Stefanics' liberal base in Santa Fe. When elected to the Senate she became the first openly lesbian senator in state history.

Anaya will argue that he is the stronger candidate to take on Barela in part because of his Hispanic and rural heritage. Over 55 percent of the district is Hispanic and it is mostly rural. Stefanics will argue that liberal turnout is going to be big in this election and she is best suited to ride that wave.

Anaya made blog headlines when he made a brief run for the Dem nod for state land commissioner in 2010. He withdrew from the race amid controversy over a lawsuit filed against him at the time. Mike Anaya will make his candidacy official this Saturday at the glisten Community Center.

Anaya vs. Stefanics in Primary '16 will surely give political junkies a joyful ride (not to say that there won't be another name joining the party.


Sec. Fouratt
The so-called double-dipping bill, also known as "return-to-work" died in the session but did it create a credibly gap for Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt?

He joined forces with ABQ Mayor Berry to try to persuade the legislature to allow retired officers already getting a government pension to rejoin APD and other police agencies because of what Fouratt said was a statewide officer shortage. There's no debate that APD is severely understaffed but here's what Fouratt told the Senate panel, according to the ABQ Chamber of Commerce political report:

Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt provided some interesting statistics in his testimony, “As of December 2015, there were the following vacancy rates around the state: Dona Ana Sheriffs office, 22%; Eddy County Sheriffs office, 22%; Valencia County Sheriffs office, 12%; Roswell Police Department, 12%; Santa Fe Police Department, 10%; Truth or Consequences Police Department, 36% and the New Mexico State Police, 11%, which equals 81 positions.”

Former APD Sergeant Dan Klein has done much spade work on this for the ABQ Free Press. He came to the opposite conclusion of Secretary Fouratt--that there is no statewide  officer shortage. He reacted to the Fouratt testimony before Senate Rules:

What Fouratt doesn’t state is that Dona Ana County had 24 cadets in their academy and they just graduated, bringing them to almost 100% staffing.The Eddy County IPRA from October 2015 showed they were only down 2 deputies. So either the Eddy County Sheriff is lying or he had 12 deputies quit on him since October 2015. If they quit on him the problem is with the sheriff and no one else. (budget 60 deputies October 2015 employed 58). 

Valencia County stated that they were short 8 deputies but they had 2 graduate in December bringing them to 44 deputies, a 10% vacancy rate. Being staffed at 85% or higher is fine, it is the natural hiring and attrition process. Roswell stated that they have a budget for 97 and they employed 85 and had 6 graduating (bringing them to 91), a 95% staffing. 

Santa Fe is correct, which means they are at 90% staffed, well within attrition and hiring guidelines. T or C we didn’t survey, how many could they have though? Probably a budget of less than 10. State Police, as per Fouratt’s own IPRA in December showed 678 budget and 678 hired. 100% staffed. Where he is now coming up with a different number no one can explain.

Mayor Berry and APD Chief Eden lobbied Santa Fe hard for the bill but were turned back for the second year in a row. Their effort--and Fouratt's--to turn the ABQ police staffing crisis into a statewide issue met a brick wall. With Klein's research disputing Fouratt's statements, it's no wonder.


Rep. Dines
Reaction from a Legal Beagle now on the death of an independent ethics commission for the tenth year running:

Senators kill it asserting that it would somehow be susceptible to "partisan" influence. When you have nine commissioners, "no more than four of whom may be members of the same political party," I think it's time for a head-and-name court of the paranoids who were worried. (ABQ GOP State Rep. James) Dines has tons of guts to make his point about the quality of his work by removing his bill from the clutches of those who would water it down. This is one place where all-or-nothing serves the public very well. On to the eleventh year.

Dines withdrew his bill from consideration rather than accepting the changes that he said would make it toothless. ABQ Dem State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is taking hits for letting the measure die. He faces re-election in a key swing district. However, the ethics idea has been squashed for a decade and no one can point to any politician who was voted out because of it. The ethics commission was vigorously opposed by Senate Minority Leader Stu Ingle.

Advocates have found the right sponsor in "gutsy" Rep. Dines, but as we pointed out this week they may need a reboot on the commission concept or else we may remain stalled another decade.

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